Fallon Farinacci says her upcoming 38th birthday has been weighing heavily on her mind.
It’s a day that will mark a tragic milestone: she’s outlived both of her parents and her older brother.
But she’s decided to celebrate anyway.
“Instead of being consumed by the grief, sadness and survivor’s guilt that day will bring, I am taking hold of that day and celebrating my resiliency,” she said.
In January 1993, both her parents were killed in a murder-suicide that shocked the small Métis community of St. Eustache, Man. Farinacci, who was nine at the time, was in the home with her two brothers when their parents, Sherry and Maurice Paul, were shot by their mother’s stalker.
Eleven years later, her older brother Carson died by suicide at the age of 29.
To honour her parents and brother — and to celebrate her own resilience — she’s reclaiming this difficult day by using it as an opportunity to raise money for two Indigenous organizations.
The idea came to her when she was reflecting on the upcoming milestone birthday, which is in September.
“I thought, ‘OK, this is going to hit me a lot harder than I anticipated.’ Now that I’ve shifted the narrative and started this fundraiser, I think I’ll be distracted in a beautiful way,” she said.
Farinacci set up her “Celebrate Indigenous Resilience — Thirty Eight” fundraiser on the website GoFundMe last week with a initial goal of raising $3,800 for two Indigenous-led organizations: the Abbey House Transitional Home for Indigenous women in Ontario’s Niagara region, where she now lives, and the St. Eustache local of the Manitoba Metis Federation.
She was playing it safe, she says, with the initial modest fundraising goal, out of fear of disappointing the benefiting charities. But an immediate outpouring of support encouraged her to increase the goal to $10,000 within hours of launching the fundraiser.
As the donations continued to roll in, at one point averaging $1,000 an hour, Farinacci raised the goal one last time, to $38,000. As of Wednesday evening, more than $23,000 had been raised.
“I don’t know if any of us were anticipating it being as beautiful as it has been so far with support. I’m speaking with them this week to talk more about how the funds will be used,” she says.
Understanding her past, reclaiming her identity
Farinacci grew up admiring her father, who she says was “a very, very, very proud Métis man.” When she was a child, he served as president of the southwest division for the Manitoba Metis Federation.
Losing her parents meant losing the connection she had to her Métis roots. In 2017, Farinacci testified at the National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Hearing other survivors’ stories and telling hers was a pivotal moment in her healing journey.
“For the longest time, I just felt like this is my story. This was normal,” she says.
After her testimony, she joined the National Family Advisory Circle for the inquiry.
“It was then I realized this is not OK. This isn’t normal. I finally was able to shift the narrative to say this isn’t all of me. I can really celebrate stepping into my culture more, teach my children that, and go beyond the tragedy, the trauma part of it. And really step back into the power that is my Métis identity.”
Using her voice to inspire others
Since testifying at the national inquiry, Farinacci has continued to share her story publicly on her social media accounts. She also uses it to amplify the voices of Indigenous people, advocate for survivors and raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S).
Still, she admits she was nervous about launching her fundraiser.
“In my heart, I was very worried about how I would feel emotionally and how others would read it. And ultimately, I didn’t know what it would bring up for me either, grief-wise,” she says.
She adds that the outpouring of support and love she has received has solidified that she is doing the right thing, and says she knows her parents and her brother are proud of her.
“Through trauma, pain and sadness, I survived,” she wrote on her GoFundMe page. “I am here!”
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there. Contact the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line toll-free at 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-HELP170) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. You can also text CONNECT to 686868 and get immediate support from a crisis responder through the Crisis Text Line, powered by Kids Help Phone.
Or contact Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (text, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. CT only) | crisisservicescanada.ca
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